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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

House takes up class-size proposal



The full House took up Wesley Chapel Republican Will Weatherford's proposal to ask voters to loosen the class-size amendment today, with Democrats failing in a bid to amend the measure.

HJR 919 would put a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot asking voters to halt the class-size mandate at the schoolwide average, whereas the 2002 amendment requires schools to hold to classroom maximums by the beginning of the 2010 school year. It was rolled over for a vote another day.

"Class size is important and we want to maintain the integrity of class size," Weatherford said. "But at the same time it’s not flexible, it’s not amendable, it is extremely expensive and the final benefit of class size, we don’t even know exists, if there is one."

Weatherford touts the support of administrators, school boards and superintendents who have asked for flexibility.

Democrat after Democrat questioned Weatherford about potential loss of funding, learning gains and teacher-student ratios. Some asked if Weatherford had talked to teachers and parents, "the people who class size really affects."

Rep. Yolly Roberson, D-Miami, spoke of the many low-performing schools in Miami-Dade County, saying more students in a class can affect a teacher's ability to teach.

"Not one teacher told me it was a good idea" to change the class-size amendment, Roberson said.

Weatherford said the teachers he has talked to say "they think that it's doable and they could live with it."

Many asked why we need another constitutional amendment? Couldn't this flexibility be given statutorially?

"The truth is, when you talk to constitutional attorneys, we cannot get around what the Constitution says," Weatherford explained. "In my opinion the only way to do this is to look voters in the eye" and say "we need to fix it."

The Senate version, sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Stephen Wise, is held up in committee. Wise said that he's "waiting until the budget gets done."

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:20am]


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